Look, I'm not here to tell you to spend $700 on a mesh router. In fact, given the glut of intriguing new mesh routers that cost hundreds less, you almost certainly shouldn't. What I will tell you is that the AX6000 version of the Netgear Orbi -- the two-piece, $700 triband system that supports Wi-Fi 6 -- is the fastest and most impressive mesh router I've tested.
I wrote those words back in 2020 when I first reviewed the system, and they're still true now, more than two years later. In the time since, I've tested dozens of mesh systems out of my home, and to date, the Orbi AX6000 is still the fastest I've ever seen in those tests, faster even than the $1,500 Orbi AXE110000 system that followed it. It doesn't support Wi-Fi 6E connections over the 6GHz band like that newer system does, but it's still clear that the AX6000 was at least a year or two ahead of the curve in terms of performance.8.2
The problem is that, at $700 for a 2-pack, the Orbi AX6000 is still prohibitively expensive, and more mesh than you need if you're living with anything less than a gigabit internet connection at home. In my home, where my fiber internet plan nets me speeds of up to 300Mbps, my average download speeds from the Orbi AX6000 to a Wi-Fi 6 device came in at 367Mbps. That number is better than any other mesh router I've tested. But it isn't noticeably better.
Not anymore, at least. Recent systems have closed the gap, including the TP-Link Deco W7200 ($229 for a 2-pack), the Asus ZenWifi XD6 ($380 for a 2-pack), the Eero Pro 6 ($399 for a 2-pack),and the TP-Link Deco X90 ($450 for a 2-pack). Like the Orbi AX6000, all of those systems registered maxed out download speeds above 300Mbps throughout my entire home, and all of them cost hundreds less. If I blindly picked one of them at random to run my home network and then spent a weekend browsing the web and streaming video, I don't think I'd be able to tell you which system I'd been using.
Alternatives like those make the Orbi AX6000 difficult to recommend at full price, and sales have been few and far between in the years since its debut. It's still worth considering for large-sized homes that want to take full advantage of high-speed internet connections with gigabit-or-better speeds (and it's worth pointing out that I'm seeing an uptick in internet options like those in 2022). In most cases there's no need to spend this much.Now playing:Watch this: Which router upgrade is right for you?9:01
Mesh routers are Wi-Fi systems that include range-extending satellite devices. You plug the router into your modem like normal and then plug the satellite in somewhere else in your home. The satellite maintains a strong connection with the router and serves as a signal booster when you're connecting from afar.
In other words, a mesh router is a solid choice if you're looking to spread a speedy Wi-Fi connection throughout your home and eliminate annoying dead zones in rooms that are far from wherever you've positioned the router. They typically don't offer top speeds that are as fast as standard, single-point routers, but they do offer much better coverage. Since your home's internet plan almost certainly caps your top speeds at rates well below what any modern router is actually capable of, that superior coverage will make a much more noticeable difference in your internet experience.
No -- you've got plenty of mesh alternatives that cost hundreds less. Along with the top-performing models mentioned a few paragraphs up, other Wi-Fi 6 options worth considering include the Asus ZenWifi Mini, the Motorola MH7603 and Amazon's Eero 6. None of them blew me away when I tested them like the Orbi AX6000 did, but each of them nets you a 3-piece mesh system for less than $300. If you're willing to skip Wi-Fi 6, you could go with Google's Nest Wifi, which currently costs $189 for a 2-pack or $269 for a 3-pack. Meanwhile, a 3-pack of the Wi-Fi 5, AC1200 version of Netgear Orbi can be had for as little as $100.
The biggest difference between the Orbi AX6000 and systems like those is that the Orbi beefs things up with a faster processor, faster top speeds and -- most importantly -- a second 5GHz band that the system uses as a dedicated backhaul connection between the router and its satellites. That tri-band approach helps the router and its satellites pass data back and forth without slowing your speeds down too much, and that's the key to unlocking the best mesh performance.
It's an especially killer feature in combination with Wi-Fi 6, because the router and satellite can take full advantage of new Wi-Fi 6 features in order to move data around faster than ever. Even if you don't own a lot of Wi-Fi 6 gadgets capable of taking full advantage of the speedy new standard, the end result is that connecting to the internet when you're close to the satellite should be nearly as fast as when you're near the router itself.
Other high-end hardware touches include the multi-gig WAN port on the router that can support incoming speeds as high as 2.5Gbps (2,500Mbps). That might have seemed like overkill back in 2020, but we're starting to see a growing number of internet providers flipping the switch on multi-gig internet speeds, including Comcast Xfinity, Verizon, Google Fiber, Ziply Fiber, AT&T and others. If you sign up for a plan like that and you want to use your own router, then you'll want one that can handle multi-gig speeds like the Orbi AX6000 can.
Setting a router up is a pretty painless experience these days, as most manufacturers use a companion app to walk you through the process in a matter of minutes. Netgear is no exception -- you'll download the Orbi app to your Android or iOS device and then tap your way through the instructions. The TP-Link Deco app is a touch more convenient, with satellites that automatically pair with the router as soon as you plug them in, but even so, the Orbi's setup process is about as simple as it gets.
Once your network is up and running, you'll be able to manage your system from the Orbi app. The controls don't go as deep as you'll get with something like a gaming router, but you at least get options to pause the Wi-Fi to specific devices, or run a quick speed test. Given how much the system costs, I would have liked to have seen some more unique features here.
It's also worth noting that apps like these typically collect data about your network activity, as well as personal info that might be used for marketing purposes. Again, Netgear is no exception.
All of that is par for the course with routers these days, and for most of the internet-connected devices in our homes, but I give Netgear credit for setting some clear boundaries for how it handles your data, and for making it easy to view that data or request its deletion with a simple online form. Additionally, the Orbi iOS app does a good job of making its data collection practices clear at the onset of setup, and giving users the opportunity to opt out of data collection from the get-go.
I test every router than I review at my home, a 1,300 square foot house in Louisville, KY, with a fiber internet connection that supports upload and download speeds of up to 300Mbps. Like most routers, the Orbi AX6000 is capable of hitting speeds much faster than that, but my room-by-room speed tests still give me a good, comparative look at performance.
You can read more about how I test routers here, but the short version is that I run a multitude of speed tests in different rooms across multiple days, using both a Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 client device. When it comes to Wi-Fi 6 devices, nothing else I've tested has ever outperformed the Orbi AX6000. Its overall average download speed of 367Mbps throughout my home is still tops on my leaderboard -- and the same goes for its average upload speed of 341Mbps.
Those averages are as high as they are because the Orbi AX6000 is a remarkably consistent router. It didn't matter if I was testing in the morning, afternoon or evening, or if I connected close to the router or far from it -- my speeds were as consistent from test to test as I've ever seen from a mesh router, and even more consistent than the newer Orbi AXE11000 system.
Still, it isn't the leader by every metric. Its average download speed to my Wi-Fi 5 device was 289Mbps -- a good result, but not as good as I saw from the Orbi AXE11000 (292Mbps), the TP-Link W7200 (337Mbps) or the TP-Link Deco X90 (350Mbps). It was also slightly less consistent than some models I've tested with respect to latency, though not noticeably so.
I also run an additional set of tests to Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6, and Wi-Fi 6E client devices at the CNET Smart Home, a large, multi-story house with a 100Mbps fiber connection. After running speed tests in eight rooms, the Orbi AX6000 didn't average the fastest uploads or downloads to any of my devices, and instead finished within the margin of error of its competitors, with its only weak spot seeming to be some minor room-by-room inconsistencies with upload speeds to Wi-Fi 5 devices, which brought its overall average down.
Overall, the system delivered max or near-max speeds throughout the entirety of the 5,800 square foot home, which is terrific. Still, the real takeaway is that you don't need to spend $700 in order to max out your speeds in a large home with a slow-to-moderate internet plan.
The Netgear Orbi AX6000 is proof positive that mesh networking and Wi-Fi 6 make for a pretty killer combo. When the router and its satellite are able to use Wi-Fi 6 speeds and features to pass data back and forth, everyone benefits -- most notably with faster connections at a distance.
At $700 for a two-pack, this remains a very difficult system to recommend for most people. You'll need an internet plan of at least 500Mbps before you'll notice much of a performance difference compared to less expensive alternatives like the TP-Link Deco W7200 or X90, the Asus ZenWifi XD6, or Amazon's Eero Pro 6. At $700, the Orbi AX6000 costs hundreds more than any of those, and it doesn't include unique extras like built-in smart speakers or a full-featured device prioritization engine.
Regardless of its price, the Orbi AX6000 is as consistent as mesh routers get, with top-tier performance that's held up incredibly well in the years since it first debuted. On top of that, the multi-gig WAN port has a lot of appeal for anyone who's thinking about upgrading their home internet plan in the near future. You should consider other, less expensive options first -- particularly if you're living in a small-to-medium sized home, or if you're living with anything less than gigabit internet speeds -- but as splurges go, you could do a lot worse.Wi-Fi Netgear Notification on Notification off Internet Routers